Organovo Named One of Fifty Most Innovative Companies of 2012

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MIT’s Technology Review pays tribute to Organovo as a TR50 company, one of The 50 Most innovative Companies of 2012 and one of 10 in the biomedicine sector!

This is their description of a TR50 company:

“It is a business whose innovations force other businesses to alter their strategic course. TR50 members are nominated by Technology Review’s editors, who look for companies that over the last year have demonstrated original and valuable technology, are bringing that technology to market at a significant scale, and are clearly influencing their competitors.”

Organovo is on a roll, as it was only in two years ago that the 3-D bioprinter was heralded as one of The 50 Best Inventions of 2010.

It’s clear that the vision of New Organ is quickly gaining focus and momentum with the technology community and across biomedical sectors. And because of the donations of far-sighted, generous individuals like you, our support of fast-moving, innovative companies like Organovo is possible.

Just look at some of the amazing things that have already been accomplished! Several types of tissue have already been built by the 3-D bioprinter such as lung, cardiac muscle, and blood vessels. With your help, complete organs will be built and the entire course of organ transplantation will change, saving and elevating the lives of untold numbers of individuals.



What You’d Want to Get On Your Nerves

86-nervecells.jpgSevere wounds from disasters like car wrecks, wartime battles, and even domestic disputes often leave blood vessels and nerves severed and damaged, bones broken, and cellular wreckage throughout the body. Neurosurgeons like Jason Huang, M.D., confront these issues daily.

Nerve damage is one of the most challenging wounds to treat. It’s suffered by over 350,000 victims of gunshots, stabbings, car accidents, and other unfortunate, violent events each year in the U.S. alone. But now, a step forward has been taken by Huang and colleagues toward the goal of repairing nerves in patients more effectively.

Published in PLoS ONE, Huang et al at the University of Rochester Medical Center report that a surprising set of cells may hold potential for nerve transplants.

In a study of rats, Huang’s research group identified that dorsal root ganglion neurons, or DRG cells, aid in creating thick, healthy nerves without provoking unwanted attention from the immune system.

“These are very serious injuries, and patients really suffer, many for a very long time,” said Huang, associate professor of Neurosurgery and Chief of Neurosurgery at Highland Hospital, an affiliate of the University of Rochester Medical Center.


“There are a variety of options, but none of them are ideal. Our long-term goal is to grow living nerves in the laboratory, then transplant them into patients and cut down the amount of time it takes for those nerves to work,” added Huang, whose project was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and by the University of Rochester Medical Center.

In order for a damaged nerve to repair itself, the two disconnected but healthy portions of the nerve must somehow find each other through a maze of tissue and reconnect. For small wounds, this may happen naturally, much in the way skin grows back over small cuts. But for some nerve injuries, the gap is simply too large and the nerve can’t grow back without intervention.

Surgeons like Huang prefer the option of transplanting nerve tissue from elsewhere in the patient’s body. Say, for instance, a section of a nerve from the leg, back into the wounded area. This transplanted nerve acts as a scaffolding, a guide for a new nerve to grow and bridge the gap. And since the tissue comes from the patient, the body accepts the new nerve and doesn’t attack it.

But what about the patients who might have severe wounds in other areas of the body, making extra nerve tissue unavailable? An alternative might be a nerve transplant from a cadaver or an animal, but those bring other challenges, such as the lifelong need for powerful immunosuppressant drugs. One technology Huang and other neurosurgeons use is the NeuraGen Nerve Guide, a hollow, absorbable collagen tube through which nerve fibers can grow and find each other. This is often used to repair nerve damage over short distances less than half an inch long.

In the PLoS ONE study, Huang’s team compared several methods to attempt to bridge a nerve gap of about half an inch in rats. Nerve cells were transplanted from a different type of rat into the wound site. Results were compared with the NeuraGen’s technology alone and when paired with DRG cells or with other cells known as Schwann cells.

Four months passed and the team found that the tubes equipped with either DRG or Schwann cells helped bring about healthier nerves. Also the DRG cells provoked less, shall we say, unwanted attention from the immune system than the Schwann cells. It attracted twice as many macrophages and more of the immune compound interferon gamma.


“The conventional wisdom has been that Schwann cells play a critical role in the regenerative process,” said Huang, who is also a scientist in the Center for Neural Development and Disease. “While we know this is true, we have shown that DRG calls can play an important role also. We think DRG cells could be a rich resource for nerve regeneration.”

While we’d like to playfully say “May the Schwann be with you” for peripheral nerve damage sufferers, it looks like there’s great potential in these dorsal root ganglion (DRG) cells. We’re always excited for the potential of regenerative technologies applied to a variety of fields for the benefit of humanity– nerve regeneration being but one of these applications!





Reference:

Weimin Liu, Yi Ren, Adam Bossert, Xiaowei Wang, Samantha Dayawansa, Jing Tong, Xiaoshen He, Douglas H. Smith, Harris A. Gelbard, Jason H. Huang. Allotransplanted Neurons Used to Repair Peripheral Nerve Injury Do Not Elicit Overt Immunogenicity. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (2): e31675 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031675

Image courtesy of University of Rochester Medical Center

Skeletal Muscle Printed with Organovo’s 3-D Printer

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Credit: Frank Rogozienski/Wonderful Machine


Fantastical scenes from The Fifth Element may come to mind when you hear about organ printing. Though we’re nowhere near the bizarre but entertaining 25 seconds it took the movie’s scientists to reconstruct a complete human being, we still live in exciting, futuristic times.


Now, skeletal muscle tissue is but one of several classes of tissue, including cardiac, lung, and blood vessels that can be built from a 3-D printer.

A thin layer of human skeletal muscle is being printed by Chirag Khatiwala in a small, sterile room of San Diego-based startup Organovo. Each muscle cell from the company’s signature 3-D printer is uniformly deposited in closely spaced lines on a petri dish. This allows the cells to grow and interconnect until they form working muscle tissue nearly indistinguishable from a human muscle biopsy.

Unlike other experimental approaches that utilize ink-jet printers to deposit cells, Organovo’s technology enables cells to interact with each other the way they do in the body. How? They are packed tightly together, sandwiched, if you will, and incubated. This prompts them to cleave to each other and interchange chemical signals. When printed, the cells are grouped together in a paste that helps them grow, migrate, and align themselves properly. In the case of muscle cells, the way they orient themselves in the same direction allow for contractions of the tissue.

Yet another critical need could be addressed by this advanced technology: Because Organovo’s product is so similar to native human tissue, it could help researchers identify drugs that will fail long before they reach clinical trials, potentially saving drug companies billions of dollars. Many potential drugs that only seem promising when tested in cell cultures or animals fail because both specimens are very different from human tissue.


But its ultimate goal is to use the 3-D printer to build complete organs for transplants. Because the organs would be comprised of a patient’s own cells, risk of rejection would plummet, perhaps disappear altogether.

Methuselah Foundation honors the efforts of Organovo through early funding and support as well as through its new, highly anticipated New Organ Mprize. The true prize is elevated health and quality of life for those that have had to or will suffer the blows of a failing organ. Every $10 helps us work in tandem with today’s stunningly advanced technology so that at some tomorrow, no one will have to suffer or die because of a diseased organ.





Reference:

Gravitz, Lauren. “Printing Muscle Organovo’s 3-D Printer Creates Human Tissues That Could Help Speed Drug Discovery.” Technology Review. MIT Technology Review. Web. 21 Feb. 2012.
http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/39687/?mod=chthumb.

How To Mend A Broken Heart (With What You Got)

83-heartbiopsy.jpgThe scope of regenerative medicine is rapidly expanding. New Organ Mprize exists to shepherd that dynamic movement and with your continued support, results like these from Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles will no longer be the exception, but the rule. What a global relief that would be…

According to the World Health Organization, heart disease remains the No.1 cause of death in the world. If the trend is allowed to continue, by 2015, an estimated 20 million people will die from cardiovascular disease, mostly from heart attack and stroke. In 2005 alone, 7.6 million people died of heart attack– the population of Switzerland. Now, about one million Americans suffer from heart attack annually. Of these, about 400,000 die.

After a heart attack, the damaged parts of the organ are gradually filled in with scar tissue, which keeps the heart from functioning at full strength. Then heart attack patients leave the hospital with the uncomfortable knowledge of their heightened likelihood for another attack down the road. It’s just a nasty situation.

But with exciting progress like this in regenerative therapies, the statistics may change forever in the near future. The entire ball game may change. The great news?


Re-injected stem cells derived from a patient’s own heart muscle are reported to successfully regenerate damaged heart tissue and reduce the size of scars from a prior heart attack.

The researchers explain in a video that doctors “are examining whether treating a patient with their cardiac stem cells can literally reduce the size of the scar and restore health function to the heart after a heart attack.”

As reported in The Lancet, the answer is a resounding YES.

17 patients received the therapy about three months after their heart attacks. According to Fox News’ John Roberts, Dr. Eduardo Marban “measured an average 50 percent reduction in the size of the scar tissue” from the patients, a year after the therapy.

Let’s put this into perspective, shall we? Myocardial infarction means irreversible heart muscle death. Dead muscle tissue then eventually turns into scar tissue. This success is phenomenal. It’s like making a gourmet French dinner out of meatloaf leftovers. Or perhaps nothing like that.


“One of the holy grails in medicine has been the use of medicine to achieve regeneration,” Marban said. “Patients that were treated not only experience shrinkage of their scars, but also new growth of their heart muscle, which is very exciting.”

What was the process like? A catheter was first inserted into the diseased hearts to take a small biopsy of muscle. The tissue was then manipulated into producing stem cells. “After a few weeks of marinating in culture, researchers had enough stem cells to re-inject them into the patients’ hearts,” Roberts reports. “Over the course of a year, the stem cells took root in cardiac tissue, encouraging the heart to create new muscle and blood vessels. In other words, the heart actually began to mend itself.”

“Patients that were treated not only experienced shrinkage in their scars, but also new growth of their heart muscle, which is very exciting.”

84-eduardomarban.jpgMarban told Roberts, “We’ve achieved what we have achieved using adult stem cells – in this case – actually specifically from a patient’s own heart back into the same patient. There’s no ethical issues with that – there’s no destruction of embryos.” In addition because the stems are the patient’s own, “There’s no reason to worry about immune rejection,” Marban explained.

“If we can do that in the heart, I don’t see any reason, conceptually, why we couldn’t do it in kidneys for example, or pancreas or other organs that have very limited regenerative capacity,” Marban said.

Interestingly, it appears that the stem cells themselves may not have turned into cardiac muscle, “but rather they stimulated the heart to produce new muscle cells,” Roberts reported.

Marban told Roberts that the applications could go well beyond diseased hearts.

“As Dr. Marban notes, there is no reason adult stem cells couldn’t be used to repair other organs as well,” Prentice said. ” Besides acute and chronic heart damage as well as angina, studies have already shown initial success using adult stem cells to treat a myriad of conditions, including spinal cord injury, stroke, juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell anemia, and dozens more.”





References:

Andrusko, Dave. “Use of Patient’s Own Stem Cells Could Regenerate Damaged Heart Muscle After Heart Attack.” National Right to Life News Today. NRL News Today, 16 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 Feb. 2012.
http://www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2012/02/use-of-patients-own-stem-cells-could-regenerate-damaged-heart-muscle-after-heart-attacks/.

Makkar, Raj R., Rachel R. Smith, Ke Cheng, Konstantinos Malliaras, Louise EJ Thomson, and Daniel Berman. “Intracoronary Cardiosphere-derived Cells for Heart Regeneration after Myocardial Infarction (CADUCEUS): A Prospective, Randomised Phase 1 Trial.” The Lancet. Elsevier Limited, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 Feb. 2012. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)60195-0/abstract.

Organovo Announces $6.5 million to Advance 3D Bioprinting

Excellent news from Organovo! Today, February 14, 2012 in San Diego, Organovo Holdings, Inc. (“Organovo”) announced the successful merger with Organovo, Inc. (the “Merger”), a company focused on developing the three-dimensional bioprinting technology for medical research and applications. Organovo closed a private placement of approximately $6.5 million to advance its bioprinting platform.

82-bioprinter.jpg“Organovo’s advanced bioprinting platform can replicate essential biology for research, drug discovery and development and, eventually, for therapeutic applications,” stated Keith Murphy, chief executive officer of Organovo. “We have found success in achieving early revenue through strategic collaborations, and this funding will allow us to extend the reach and uses of 3D bioprinting through growth and innovation in the coming years.”

We’re downright beaming here at Methuselah Foundation, for this is yet another buoyant step towards accomplishing the vision of New Organ.

“Their $6.5 million in additional capital will go a long way toward making new parts for aging bodies a desirable and commonplace outcome. Thanks to all of you who made signal contributions to this ongoing success,” said David Gobel, founder of Methuselah Foundation.





References:

“Organovo Announces $6.5 Million Private Placement to Advance 3D Bioprinting for Medical Applications.” Money.msn.com. Microsoft, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Feb. 2012.
http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?feed=PR&Date=20120214&ID=14791316.

Groundbreaking Multi-Organ Transplant Saves Young Girl But At High Cost

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It was the year 2008. 5-year-old Alannah Shevenell’s distended belly was causing her pain as it swelled with fluid. Eating was difficult and she was losing weight as her stomach grew. Doctors discovered a tumor- a rare form of sarcoma called inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor- that snaked its way from organ to organ inside Alannah.

“Surgery was the last resort to save her life and Alannah spent more than a year on a waiting list for the organs,” said Dr. Heung Bae Kim, lead surgeon for the procedure at Children’s Hospital Boston.

The organs needed? A new stomach, liver, spleen, small intestine, pancreas and an esophageal section to replace the ones being choked by the gigantic tumor. It may be the first ever transplant of an esophagus and the largest number of organs simultaneously transplanted in one human being in New England.

Doctors told the family that there was a 50 percent chance little Alannah would not survive the operation. Without the transplants, she had no chance whatsoever.

The 14-hour procedure occurred in October with the team of doctors preparing to remove the grown and the organs in one fell swoop, replacing them with organs transplanted in one tangled piece from another child of similar size. It was a difficult process involving severe blood loss.


“It’s probably one of the most extensive tumor removals ever done,” the surgeon said.

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The surgery was a success, though Alannah spent three months at the hospital battling infection after infection and complications from the surgery. Finally, she came home this past Wednesday with her grandparents in Hollis about 20 miles west of Portland.

Alannah’s immunosuppressant therapy involves nine medications each day, some two, three or four times. Her grandparents methodically and precisely measure everything that comes out of her body. Her blood sugar is regularly checked. An ostomy pouch and feeding tube are attached to her for nutrition as she gradually accustoms herself to eating again.

Because of her weakened immune system, she can’t be subjected to environments with large numbers of people such as school, church or the mall. Because of this, a tutor comes to the house 20 hours a week for her education. Raw vegetables and fruit can’t be given to her unless they are thick skinned due to concern for germs. She’ll never be able to swim in a lake because of the bacteria. Her grandparents, the Skolases installed ultraviolet lights in their heating ducts to kill mold, mildew and bacteria that might sicken Alannah and put her at risk.


“There is a risk that she’ll need another transplant down the road. And if there were any tumor cells left behind, there is a risk it could come back,” Dr Kim warned, according to ABC News. Alannah will also need to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of her life.

“Don’t even ask,” she says when the topic of medical costs comes up. Her grandparents’ hand-crafted furniture business has suffered with Debi Skolas devoting her time to Alannah’s care. The couple was forced to dip into their retirement to make ends meet. Their friends organized a fundraiser to help offset the medical costs.

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But more than anything, the family is grateful for the girl’s second chance at life. Alannah is full of spunk and bright-eyed as she scampers around her family’s farmhouse. She is still able to sled, make a snowman, and scrapbook.

Imagine a world where Alannah and her grandparents wouldn’t have to endure an excruciating year on a wait list for multiple organs. She would have organs generated from her own cells, with a much-lowered risk of infections and complications post-surgery. She wouldn’t have to take so many anti-rejection pills a day that suppress her immune system and force her to stay away from school or any environment with lots of people. She would be able to eat the fruits and vegetables she wanted. She would be able to live a much more normal childhood. Her grandparents would not have to dip into their retirement fund just to make ends meet.

That world is the vision of New Organ. With your help and support, we can get there together to save lives and prolong health.





Reference:

Daily Mail Reporter. “Ground-breaking Multi-organ Transplant Saves Girl, 9, after ‘monster’ Tumour Devours SIX of Her Organs” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd, 3 Feb. 2012. Web. 3 Feb. 2012.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2095169/Ground-breaking-organ-transplant-saves-Alannah-Shevenell-9-monster-tumour.html.

Live Chat with Aubrey de Grey on the Science of Aging

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What’s the key to living a long life? Is it all in the genes, or are there anti-aging strategies that might make a difference?

Join Science magazine for a live chat on anti-aging research, Thursday, January 26 at 3 pm EST. We’ll chat with experts Aubrey de Grey and S. Jay Olshansky on the science of aging. They’ll answer your questions on a variety of topics, including whether human lifespan will continue to increase, what impact antiaging research could have on global demographics, and what the latest research says about what you can do to combat the ill effects of growing older.

Cardiac Stem Cell Test Breakthrough in Treating Heart Failure

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Heart failure occurs when a damaged heart is weakened
and unable to pump enough blood around the body
(Photo: ALAMY)



For the first time in human history, cardiac stem cells were used to repair the severely damaged hearts of 16 patients in a trial conducted by researchers from the University of Louisville in the US. “It could offer an entirely new option and a potential cure for patients who are now dying from heart failure,” said study author Dr. Roberto Bolli, director of cardiology at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. “The results are striking. While we do not yet know why the improvement occurs, we have no doubt now that ejection fraction increased and scarring increased.”

The ejection fraction or “pumping efficiency” of the hearts of eight patients had improved by more than a whopping 12%. These results tripled the 4% improvement the researchers were expecting to see.


“If these results hold up in future studies, I believe this could be the biggest revolution in cardiovascular medicine in my lifetime, ” said an impressed Professor Bolli.

The “Schipio” trial included a total of 23 patients, all of whom suffered heart failure due to a previous heart attack. Seven of these received standard care while the other sixteen were assigned to stem cell therapy. The groundbreaking treatment involved extracting cardiac stem cells (CSCs) from patients during bypass surgery. CSCs are self-renewing cells that rebuild hearts and arteries. After a purification process and a period of growth in the laboratory, the cardiac stem cells are then injected back into damaged regions of the patient’s hearts four months later. A million of these CSCs were injected into each patient via a balloon catheter, an expandable device used to open up arteries.

Interestingly, this small Phase I study was primarily designed to assess safety rather than effectiveness of the new, cutting-edge treatment. At the start of the study, the patients had an average left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) of 40% or lower. Normal LVEF is 50% or higher. Over a period of 4 months, patients who received the treatment saw an 8.5% improvement in LVEF, increasing to 12.3% after one year. LVEF did not change in the seven patients of the “control” group who did not undergo the cardiac stem cell therapy. MRI scans conducted on number of patients revealed that cardiac scarring had been reduced.


“Michael Jones, our first patient, could barely walk 30 feet [before treatment],” Dr. John H. Loughran said. “I saw him this morning. He says he plays basketball with his granddaughter, works on his farm, and gets on the treadmill for 30 minutes three times a week. It is stories like that that makes these results really encouraging.”

These findings are published in the online edition of The Lancet medical journal and will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions meeting in Orlando, Florida. Now, Professor Bolli and his team intend on applying for funding a much bigger, multi-centre Phase II trial.

Professor Gerd Heusch from the University School of Medicine in Essen, Germany commented on the study in The Lancet: “The results from Scipio raise new optimism because the study is based on rigorous quality standards and the reported benefits are of an unexpected magnitude… we will have to see whether the further data will meet the promises of the present study. More patients will need to be followed up over a longer period.”





Reference:

“Stem Cell Test Is ‘biggest Breakthrough in Treating Heart Attacks for a Generation’” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited, 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 14 Nov. 2011.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8889031/Stem-cell-test-is-biggest-breakthrough-in-treating-heart-attacks-for-a-generation.html.

Pituitary Glands Grown from Scratch

pituitary.jpgResearchers led by Dr. Yoshiki Sasai from the RIKEN Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan constructed retina-like structures from cultured mouse embryonic stem cells last Spring. Their achievement this week is truly an amazing feat– constructing a pituitary gland from mouse stem cells.

The pituitary gland is a pea-sized endocrine gland at the base of the brain that secretes hormones like Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that play key roles in human growth, pregnancy, blood pressure, and thyroid function. It’s especially crucial during early development, so armed with the ability to simulate the formation of the pituitary gland could help researchers better understand how these developmental processes function. Hormone disorders result from inadequate release of certain hormones like these by the pituitary gland. Growth disorders such as gigantism, vision problems, and even blindness are also associated with disruptions in the pituitary.

This study, published in this week’s issue of Nature, is a crucial step forward in medical science’s ability to bioengineer complex organs for human transplantation.

Using a three dimensional culture, the team placed the mouse stem cells in a manner that mimics the way a pituitary gland naturally grows in the embryo. The gland is naturally made up of two different tissue types in the brain. The culture in the study was set up so that these two tissues would come together as they do in the brain.

After 13 days in culture, mouse embryonic stem cells
had self-assembled the precursor pouch, shown here,
that gives rise to the pituitary gland.
Nature



“Using this method, we could mimic the early mouse development more smoothly, since the embryo develops in 3-D in vivo,” says Yoshiki Sasai, the lead author of the study.

Rathke’s pouch – a fold of tissue – formed naturally and grew into the pituitary gland after about two weeks. Prior to this, the researchers only had a vague sense of the signaling factors necessary to form a pituitary gland, but after trial and error, the winning combination involved two main steps, requiring the addition of two growth factors and a drug called “sonic hedgehog” to stimulate a developmental protein. Then, the researchers tested the functionality of their synthesized organs by transplanting the tissue into mice with pituitary dysfunction. The transplants were a success! Levels of glucocorticoid hormones in the blood and behavioral symptoms such as lethargy were stabilized. The mice’s hormone levels soon returned to normal.


“This is just an initial step toward generating viable, transplantable human organs, but it’s both an elegant and illuminating study,” says Michael G. Rosenfeld, a neural stem-cell expert at the University of California, San Diego.

Next, Sasai and colleagues will be attempting the experiment with human stem cells. Sasai suspects it will take them another three years to synthesize human pituitary tissue and perfecting the transplantation methods in animals might take another few years. Still, researchers in the stem-cell field and biomedical researchers on the whole are impressed with what Sasai’s team has accomplished. Yet another small victory aimed for the big win!




Reference:

Westly, Erica. “Researchers Create a Pituitary Gland from Scratch.” Technology Review. MIT Technology Review, 9 Nov. 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2011. http://www.technologyreview.com/biomedicine/39108/?p1=A1.

Lung Regeneration May Soon Be a Reality

lungs.jpegThe October 28, 2011 issue of the journal Cell reports that researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have uncovered the biochemical signals in mice that trigger generation of new lung alveoli, the countless tiny champagne grape-like sacs within the lung where oxygen exchange takes place. The team claim that they have taken an important step forward in their quest to “turn on” lung regeneration. This research may effectively treat millions suffering from respiratory disorders.

It’s common knowledge in the biomedical industry that mice have the ability to regenerate and even expand the capacity of one lung if the other is missing–this study identifies the specific molecular triggers behind this adaptive process. The researchers believe these findings are quite relevant to human beings.

Dr. Shahin Rafii, the Arthur B. Belfer Professor of Genetic Medicine and co-director of the Ansari Stem Cell Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College and this study’s lead investigator said “Several adult human organs have the potential upon injury to regenerate to a degree, and while we can readily monitor the pathways involved in the regeneration of liver and bone marrow, it is much more cumbersome to study the regeneration of other adult organs, such as the lung and heart.”


“It is speculated, but not proven, that humans have the potential to regenerate their lung aveoli until they can’t anymore, due to smoking, cancer, or other extensive chronic damage,” says Dr. Rafii, who is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “Our hope is to take these findings into the clinic and see if we can induce lung regeneration in patients who need it, such as those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”

Dr. Rafii and his colleagues previously uncovered growth factors that control regeneration in the liver and bone marrow. In both cases, they found that endothelial cells produce the key inductive growth factors, described as “angiocrine factors”. The current lung study revealed the same phenomenon: Blood vessel cells in the lungs jump-start alveoli regeneration. “Blood vessels are not just the inert plumbing that carries blood. They actively instruct organ regeneration,” says Dr. Rafii. “This is a critical finding. Each organ uses different growth factors within its local vascular system to promote regeneration.”

In the study, the left lungs of mice were removed for Dr. Bi-Sen Ding to examine the biochemical process of the remaining lung’s regeneration. According to a prior investigation by Dr. Crystal, once the left lungs were removed, the right lungs regenerated by 80%. It replaced the majority of the lost alveoli. They discovered that when the left lung is removed, receptors on endothelial cells in the lung that respond to basic fibroblast growth factor and vascular endothelial growth factor is triggered.

Research lead Dr. Shafin Rafii explained: “Several adult human organs have the potential upon injury to regenerate to a degree, and while we can readily monitor the pathways involved in the regeneration of liver and bone marrow, it is much more cumbersome to study the regeneration of other adult organs, such as the lung and heart [...]”

Co-author Dr. Ronald G. Crystal said “There is no effective therapy for patients diagnosed with COPD. Based on this study, I envision a day when patients with COPDD and other chronic lung diseases may benefit from treatment with factors derived from lung blood vessels that induce lung regeneration.”





Reference:

Rattue, Grace. “Lung Regeneration May Be A Reality Soon.” Medical News Today. Medical News Today, 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 2 Nov. 2011. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/236928.php.